Third Wave Of Feminism - A Feminist Approach, Methodology Or Technique?

Third wave feminism's tactics are often distinct from those of second wave feminism, and there has been genuine hostility between second and third wave feminists at times. 

There is no universally accepted "third wave technique," although there are some clear patterns. 

There are four trends: 

(1) plurality and rejection of norms, 

(2) criticism of consciousness structures, 

(3) popular culture usage, and 

(4) political coalition building despite ideological disagreements. 

Even within an individual, third wave feminists accept radical diversity. 

  • Postmodern feminists, for example, reject an essentialist concept of self identification, influenced by late-twentieth-century postmodern and deconstructionist thinkers. 
  • From moment to moment, the self changes or is never the same. 

To support this viewpoint and critique phallocentric or phallogocentric society, some people turn to psychoanalysis. 

  • Whereas,
    • the first wave of feminism criticized the unequal distribution of rights in favor of men, and 
    • the second wave emphasized other ways in which society is structured to favor men (particularly white upper-class men), 
    • the third wave of feminism demonstrates how even seemingly gender-neutral concepts (such as equality and freedom) can be built on masculinist thought structures. 
  • Women's status as a subordinate class or caste may be concealed when male domination is entrenched in conventions, values, language, and awareness. 

The third wave of support for radical multiplicity aims to get us to not just think differently, but to think differently: 

to reject (or at least question) the singular way of thinking dedicated to phallocentricism in favor of discovering multiple non-domineering ways of thinking, writing, and living in society. 


This brings us to another third-wave feminist methodological thread: the rejection of norms. 

  • This is most obvious in the rejection of sex and gender norms, but it may also be seen in the rejection of standards or regulations in sexuality, politics, ethics, language and literature, bodies, brains or awareness, and desires. 
  • Norms attempt to impose a universally recognized and "good" manner of existing in the world, participating in society, or inhabiting one's body. 
  • Norms, on the other hand, often inscribe repressive identities on individuals who live on the periphery or stray from the norm. 
  • As we've seen, second wave feminism recognized that oppression; third wave feminism attempts to reverse the issue of norms, eliminating all the restricting standards that place certain individuals in the center while others are on the outskirts. 

In other words, we make everyone distinct and other by rejecting conventions and supporting diversity. 

  • Norms, on the other hand, are more difficult to eradicate from our minds. We learn them via language, which is how awareness is structured. 
  • Our thoughts are organized in a certain manner by language. This holds true for all of the categories we use to categorize ourselves and others. 
  • We must disturb the architecture of awareness in order to go beyond these categories that view certain events as normal and others as odd, abnormal, or in need of fixing. 
  • Playing with words is one way to do this. Another is to examine what constitutes knowledge and what constitutes truth sources. In the next two parts, I go through them in more detail. 

Third-wave feminism's involvement in and use of popular culture is one of its distinguishing features. 

  • Third-wave feminists, like many current thinkers and activists, broaden the definition of politics and the forms of political action. 
  • Politics is no longer limited to formal government institutions or even more casual social interactions between individuals working together or in opposition. 
  • Third wave feminist theorists see individual activities in the marketplace, the university, and even inside one's own thinking as political, while previous waves of feminist theorists value collective action. 
  • Some third-wave feminists see this as a rejection of collective, group-based political activity, while others interpret it as individuals engaging in collective activities despite their individualism. 
  • Politics can be present in virtually every activity, and the use and production of popular culture is an essential political tactic due to its psychological impacts. 


    • The ‘Stitch and Bitch' clubs, based on Debbie Stoller's knitting books of the same name, are an example of exploiting popular culture for feminist goals. 
    • Knitting was formerly considered to be a grandmotherly hobby, and although young people and feminists may have learned to knit, they typically kept it hidden to avoid being categorized or participating in such a gendered activity. 

No more! Many young knitters now not only support the hobby, but also participate in it socially, in public, and even engage in "guerilla knitting," which involves knitting for no apparent purpose and exhibiting knit items in public (around telephone poles or parking meters). 

  • Knitting exemplifies third-wave feminist ideas by demonstrating how one may behave in ways that defy gender expectations while still accepting gendered conventions. 
  • Knitting in public adds to culture, but it also poses a challenge to our understanding of what constitutes culture. 
  • Knitting may not be easily linked with ‘culture' due to its utilitarian origins, but that is exactly the purpose. 
  • Third-wave feminism recognizes the importance and potential of formerly marginalized or disparaged crafts in the creation of culture. 

This may also be seen in ‘zines,' which are self-published, self-distributed booklets on whatever subject one wants. 

Blogs, too, demonstrate how anybody with a computer can produce culture. 

  • Individuals' ability to contribute significantly to culture and society may be seen in both zines and blogs. 
  • These instances also demonstrate how individuals may utilize popular culture to effect societal change via modest acts. 
  • Self-motivated political activities include zines, blogging, knitting, indie music, and other third wave initiatives. 

Selective consumerism is the same way. 

  • How one invests money, what one buys or does not purchase, who or what one donates to, or even how one handles money and economic problems in society are all ways to show one's political affiliations or convictions. 

Third wave feminism has been accused for emptying politics of substance or ignoring collective action to effect social change by identifying politics in every activity. 

  • This flaw may also be a strength in the sense that one can act politically to bring about social change alone or with others, and in virtually any action one does as long as it is done deliberately and freely. Critics will, of course, dispute the efficacy of such measures. 

The last methodological thread I'll discuss may seem to contradict some of the preceding ideas, but third wave feminists aren't afraid of contradiction. 

  • Some postmodern feminists accuse logic of being phallocentric as well.
  • Like second wave feminism, third wave feminism seeks a means to conceive collaborative action. 
  • However, since identity is a normalizing notion, most of third-wave feminism rejects it. 

Instead, non-normative elements such as choice or the necessity for a collective political solution to a social issue may be used to build political coalitions across or in spite of ideological divides. 

  • These alliances are often goal-oriented and only endure as long as the objective is met. 
  • The goal is not to form a group, but rather to effect societal change. 

These methodological strands emerge in the issues addressed in the following sections in different ways. 

Feminists, on the other hand, do not always agree and do not have to agree. In some ways, demanding that all feminists agree on what they want is an oppressive norm that has to be overturned.

You may also want to read more about Feminism and Activism here.